This week, the US Treasury Department announced a woman will replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. While there are many deserving candidates to consider, here’s why Eleanor Roosevelt is most qualified to appear on the note.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the initiative on June 17. The new 10-piece will enter general circulation in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

“We have only made changes to the faces on our currency a few times since bills were first put into circulation,” said Jacob Lew, Treasury secretary, in a press release, “I’m proud that the new $10 will be the first bill in more than a century to feature the portrait of a woman.”

The theme of the new $10 bill is Democracy in the United States. The Treasury Department is asking Americans for advice as to who might replace Alexander Hamilton. They’ve set up a website to collect ideas:

Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt should be considered an excellent candidate for the new $10 bill for her support of democracy and human rights, both in the United States and abroad.

Roosevelt’s contributions to American civil rights were remarkable. She frequently met with African American leaders and invited many to the White House—at a time when few blacks were welcome at the president’s residence. She controversially broke with her husband’s camp to propose greater racial equality in New Deal programs and to make lynching a federal crime. She was also a passionate advocate for the world’s poor and disenfranchised.

Following her husband’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt worked tirelessly with the nascent United Nations to protect human rights around the globe. She served as the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, now known as the UN Human Rights Council.

Perhaps most importantly, she played an important role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a foundational document in international law.

The document famously declared, “[that] recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” It protects several human rights related to global poverty, including fair pay, social security, education, healthcare and access to public services.

For her work on such an important document and for her dedication to human rights around the world, Eleanor Roosevelt should be considered the most qualified woman to replace Alexander Hamilton on the new $10 bill.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: The New 10, United Nations, U.S. Department of the Treasury
Photo: Huffington Post

In 2008, inflation in Zimbabwe soared to nearly 80 percent, prompting the African country to opt out of the Zimbabwean currency and switch to the U.S. dollar. However, many Zimbabweans are finding themselves literally waiting for change—pocket change, that is.

There is little to no access to American coins, forcing shopkeepers and others sellers to give pens, sweets or chewing gum as change for American dollars. Zimbabwe now faces the opposite problem it had before: instead of money being worth too little, it is now worth too much.

To the average Zimbabwean, an American dollar is a lot of money. However, coins are more expensive to ship than dollars, and therefore it has proved a difficult task to get American coins to Zimbabwe. Last month, the national bank began issuing “bond coins,” denominated in American cents, to be used only in Zimbabwe.

Besides Zimbabwe, four other countries have adopted the use of the U.S. dollar, but also hang on to a national currency, even if it is not in circulation. Countries that use the dollar get around the “coin problem” by minting local coins. But that requires confidence in the local government, something that is in even shorter supply in Zimbabwe than coins. Zimbabweans say they want “no legal tender issued by their government.”

There have been many improvements provided by the currency change. Zimbabwe’s economy has been rocky; between 1990 and 2003, the poverty rate rose from 25 percent to 63 percent due to the political and economic crisis. By wiping out inflation, the U.S. dollar saved Zimbabwe from a potential economic collapse that would have plummeted the country even deeper into poverty. After inflation stopped and normal commerce resumed, importers experienced reduced transaction costs.

The economy may be growing, but it rests on a rocky foundation. The government has remained under the same leaders since the 1980s, and Zimbabweans receive very little from it. Even as education expands, employers receive improper training, funds and wages. Mining used to carry Zimbabwe, but now the government has adopted an indigenization policy, and deposits of gems and minerals are nearly exhausted. Commodity prices are falling and fewer investors are getting involved in Zimbabwe’s unstable economy.

If Zimbabwe sees no improvement in the economy, poverty will continue to rise throughout the country. Zimbabwean officials claim that the economic growth of the country fell in 2014 from six percent to three percent. However, as the country learns more about the U.S. monetary system, expands education and revises the government, Zimbabwe is on the track toward a brighter future, with enough change to go around.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Economist,  NY Times,  Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Go To Think Tank

Venezuela Ill Government Control
With an inflation rate at 56% and a scarcity index (percentage of goods available) of 28% over the last year the Venezuelan economy has been suffering the effects of policies implemented in the last decade. Starting in 2003, president Hugo Chavez put in place stringent currency controls. Originally, this was intended to address the severe crisis brought by a major strike of the oil industry. However, after a decade, this control remains in place, pegging the country’s exchange rate to the U.S. dollar and limiting the amount of local currency, the Bolivar, that Venezuelans are allowed to exchange.

Coupled with currency controls, governmental control in Venezuela has included imposing strict price controls for the products within the basic foods basket. Instead of making basic products more accessible, this has actually distorted prices. Hence, this has translated into widespread scarcity and an underground parallel market where basic foods are sold at prices much higher than the government established price.

Both of these policies have not produced the intended results. In the last decade, economic controls have profoundly curtailed the incentives necessary for businesses to produce and import goods. This has crippled the economy in severe ways. While the economy has become highly dependent on imports to supply almost 80% of consumer products, lack of hard currency makes this very complicated to achieve.

These policies are the culprits of the Venezuelan economy being rated as “repressed” by the Index of Economic Freedom. This rating has remained unchanged since 2004. What does this mean? Well, falling within this rating means that corruption is high, and that business, labor and fiscal freedoms are severely curtailed by an interventionist and centralized government. While Venezuela holds the biggest oil reserves in the world, out of all South and Central American countries, it ranks second to last in economic freedom.

These dire economic circumstances have forced many producers to close shop or move their operations to neighboring countries. The difficulty of operating is primarily caused by their inability to access hard currency. Since the only entity allowed to sell USD is the government, businesses are at the mercy of lengthy bureaucratic processes, unless they are willing to pay up to ten times the price of the local currency. But they would not be able to sell their product at a competitive market price due to price controls. Catch 22.

In addition to currency issues, the countless expropriations of private property and interventionist practices by the national government substantially elevate the risk of investing or running a business.

For instance, in November 2013, the government undertook several electronic stores (one of them a national chain equivalent to Best Buy) and forced them to charge what is deemed by the government as fair prices. This eventually was extended to other rubrics, forcing many to close down shop, or simply remain open until their current inventory ran out. Moreover, in January, the government passed the Fair Price Law, which sets a maximum percentage of profit that businesses are allowed to add to their prices.

The picture remains grim as protests that started in February to denounce shortages, among other things, continue unabated. The government has promised to ease some of these controls to allow shelves to be restocked and businesses to reopen their doors. However, as of today no substantial changes in economic policy have been put in place.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources:  The Heritage FoundationThe New Yorker
Photo: What’s Next Venezuela?